12 Apr 2017

Better access to home ownership 'could save NZ millions'

10:54 pm on 12 April 2017

The government could save $11 million over 15 years if it moves 1000 people from social housing into their own homes, new research suggests.

State Housing in Upper Hutt

Home ownership comes with a range of economic and health benefits, a study has found. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The New Zealand Housing Foundation said that was because the taxpayer would pay less for healthcare, welfare and accommodation supplements for those in social housing.

The foundation looked at two international studies and applied a New Zealand perspective, as well as combining data from a South Auckland community.

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Melissa Atama Photo: Supplied

Melissa Atama, who lives in that community, has spent 13 years moving around rentals.

But she, her partner and young family recently moved into a new home under the Affordable Rental Programme, which helps families buy houses, and said it had drastically improved their quality of life.

"So it's putting those roots down and feeling stable... and the kids aren't as sick, you know, as they were in the rentals we may have been in. And just a security knowing no one's going to come along and boot you out," she said.

Mrs Atama said she would not have been able to buy a house without access to an affordable housing scheme.

"It just actually makes it happen. It's so unreachable especially in Auckland. I just think it's the only way you're going to get really hard workers who are still struggling to make ends meet actually have the opportunity to make that dream a reality and own their own home."

Housing Foundation manager of strategy and development Paul Gilberd said it was the first research of its kind in New Zealand.

It clearly showed helping low income people into home ownership had broad benefits, he said.

"The research is asking, 'Is it a good idea to move people out of welfare dependence, and towards independence and perhaps home ownership?' And resoundingly the answer is 'yes, that is a good idea'," he said.

"So the cost to the state as people move along that continuum in that direction reduces significantly by millions.

"The system at the moment, the housing continuum, is broken. And where it's particularly broken, in terms of allowing people to pull out of welfare dependence and move towards independence, is in the affordable housing space, and unless we can unblock that blockage, we're going to see more homelessness," he said.

Community Housing Aotearoa Scott Figenshow

Scott Figenshow Photo: RNZ / Edward O'Driscoll

Community Housing Aotearoa chief executive Scott Figenshow said the research should make policy-makers act.

"It really helps confirm that security of tenure is something that's essential for family well-being. So we can't see why this doesn't prove the point and let's crack on making both security of tenure something that is part of our rental market as well as the pathways to home ownership."

Social Housing Minister Amy Adams, however, said the findings were too simplistic.

"You have to look at all of the factors and reasons they're in social housing and those are many and complex, and they do tend to be higher users of government services," she said.

"It's not a straight extrapolation that if you took those very people and put them into home ownership without any other intervention, it's a simple calculation."

She said while the research did not raise anything new, it did highlight interesting points.

Learn more about the Housing Foundation's research here.

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